The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
As many of you know, I attended the Smithsonian's American
Art Museum opening for The Art of Gaming exhibit yesterday. I wanted to post a
follow up blog to it today that included all of the pictures of the event; unfortunately
the hotel's Internet won't support me uploading that many high resolution
pictures before stalling out. So instead I'm going to blog about a topic that came
up during one of the panels: GameFest - Evolution of Video Games: The Future
hosted by Curator Chris Melissinos including discussions with Paul Barnett,
Mark DeLoura, Ken Levine, and Kellee Santiago. You can listen to it here if you're
Before I start, I'd just like to say I have a new found
respect and admiration for Ken Levine. I know who he is and what he's done, but
hearing him talk in person was an enlightening experience.
If you don't know who he is...
Ken Levine is the
creative director and co-founder of Irrational Games. He led the creation of
the multi-million selling, multiple "game-of-the-year" award-winning
video game BioShock, and is known for his work on Thief: The Dark Project and
System Shock 2. He was named one of the "Storytellers of the Decade"
by Game Informer and was the 1UP Network's 2007 person of the year.
So, when asked about the Evolution of Gaming and the future,
he had a response that wasn't really what I was expecting but found rather
fascinating, especially since it's something I blogged about recently and had
on my list to revisit.
I posted a blog on March 14 titled, "Hardcore Tactical
Shooter - The Unknown Kickstarter Project". You can view it here if you're interested.
At the time, the project was just under three weeks and is now down to about
two weeks, so with time being of the essence, I just posted the blog with every
intention of doing a follow up blog on Kickstarter and its impact on the video
game industry. I mean, there is no denying the fact that Double Fine drew in a
whopping $3.3M dollars and inXile drew in over $1M dollars for a Wasteland
sequel is an exciting topic.
Given my busy schedule with travelling up to Washington D.C.
and what not, I added Kickstarter to my list of blog topics to come back to at
a later date. And then, lo and behold, sitting five rows deep and within
spitting distance to Ken Levine when he's asked about the future of gaming...how
does he respond...
I don't recall his entire answer word for word, but I will
say that it predominantly revolved around Kickstarter, or some variant of
Kickstarter, and how it was going to impact the development of video games. Mr.
Levine seemed to think that it might not be just Kickstarter, but that some form of crowd-sourced
solution inspired by Kickstarter could be just as likely.
He would know more so than somebody like myself, but I think
it's a fascinating topic.
Creating video games is an expensive endeavor, no doubt
about it. And before investors plunk down bucket fulls of money to the
development team, they want to make sure they're going to get a worthwhile
return on investment. And if they're not, chances are they're not going to
invest the money. That often results in some really good ideas floating around
the minds of some proven developers never seeing production because of no
funding. That is or can be unfortunate for us.
Then, along comes something like Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is a crowd
funding website for creative projects. Kickstarter has crowdfunded a diverse
array of endeavors, ranging from indie film and music to journalism, solar
energy technology and food-related projects.
facilitates gathering monetary resources from the general public, a model which
circumvents many traditional avenues of investment. People must apply to
Kickstarter in order to have a project posted on the site, and Kickstarter
provides guidelines on what types of projects will be accepted. Project owners
choose a deadline and a target minimum of funds to raise. If the chosen target
is not gathered by the deadline, no funds are collected (this is known as a
provision point mechanism).
The Kickstarter website is clean, slick and fun to navigate around
the different projects. Take a look at it here.
Not only is this a brilliant investment model, what I find
even more fascinating is the opportunities it gives us as gamers. Sure, the
developers are raising a ton of "free" money without all of the limitations
associated with money hungry investors worried more about profit margin than
our happiness with the end product...
But those who support a particular project have a unique
opportunity to "own" a part of a game they have an interest in and contributed
In the Navy, if you are assigned to a ship prior to its
commissioning (when it's built and put into active service) and are part of the
commissioning crew, you are what's called a "plankowner".
Plankowner is a term
used by the United States Navy, and has consequently been variously defined by
different units. The origin of the term is the implication that a crew member
was around when the ship was being built and commissioned, and therefore has
bragging rights to the "ownership" of one of the planks in the main
In essence, a contributor to a video game Kickstarter
project becomes a "plankowner". Even if you contribute the least amount and get
nothing more than a free copy of the game, you're still a part of its
inception, development and production.
That's pretty cool.
What's even cooler is some of the incentives that come along
with the larger contributions.
Take a look at Wasteland
2's Kickstarter page, you'll find everything from special Collector's
editions to the opportunity to create in game content and can even have a
statue made in your honor.
If you didn't see my blog on the Hardcore Tactical Shooter Kickstarter
page, contribute enough and you can even be a character in the game.
Now that takes cool to a whole new level.
There are some dissenting voices in the crowd who don't
sound like big fans of Kickstarter. They'd rather focus on the fact that some
already wealthy and successful development teams are asking us to pony up our
money, which presumably we have less than what they do, to fund their project.
If you ask me, that's kind of a close minded way of looking
at all of this, especially when you consider that even if you contribute the minimum
amount, you'll at least get the game...probably for cheaper than what it would
cost if you bought it after it's released. Of course the obvious concern is
what if the game never happens, but one could argue...what if it does...and what if
it's the next Minecraft or Angry Birds?
This is a big topic. Clearly. I mean, when someone like Ken
Levine is asked about the future of gaming, and instead of talking about advances
in hardware or the blurring of genres, he mentions funding and the crowd
sourced model...that should be obvious it's important and bigger than this simple
But like most things I blog about, I'm a gamer, so I look at
it from the perspective of a gamer, and all I see is the opportunity to
contribute both financially, and potentially creatively, with games I'm
interested and enjoy. For the price of one video game, I have the opportunity to
be a plankowner of that video game.
If that's the future of gaming, I'm ready to contribute to